Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Run or Die: A Book Review and Reflection on a Very BIG Question


RUN or DIE – Killian Jornet

This book came into my life (I had it on hold at the library for some time) at a very “coincidental” point in my running.  To be honest, I had forgotten why I ran.  I just didn’t know what the point was anymore, and my motivation was lacking.  I know I’ve talked about the meaning of running in past blogs, but I was/am looking for the big “WHY?”  I may have had the answer before, but that answer lied with an older version of me.  Now with changing thoughts, I needed an answer with even more meaning.  Thinking about running, or even going for a run, left one huge screaming question at me “What is the point!?”, especially after considering a seemingly dismal racing season that included my first DNF and a decision to not run MMTR.  With that, I almost didn’t even want to open the book. However, Killian quickly raised my question in RUN or DIE and was alluded to in most of the book.  In addition, I was somewhat put off and intrigued in reading that Killian’s passion for running wasn’t so “pure” as I had thought…he did think about competition, even analyzing races and going over game plans in detail. Now I can look back at that as not good or bad, that is just how it is.

Anyway, my “answer”, or Killian’s answer, never came out straight forth. Deep down I knew that it wouldn’t be.  It is not a question that has a definable answer, especially when it will be different for everyone.

My old reasons still have truth.  I do run because I believe it makes me a better person, because it is my tool for learning, and opportunity to inspire others, and something I love doing.

But does that love count when sometimes I’d like to stay wrapped under my covers or procrastinate in the heat of my car before opening my door and getting Pacer out of the back?

Or what about the other day as I was almost cringing in agony as others discussed my running career as admirable, when I think of my past races with pride for overcoming the pain, but the times and actual win as unimpressive.  I felt like anything but a runner at that point.

And yet today I went for a run, Pacer at my side, and I felt like a runner…and not just a runner, but an adventurer.  I ran slowly when I felt like it, and a little faster at other times.  I even let out a holler at the top of one ridge line, happy to be running and alive.

Is it enough to run (and run more than as a simple hobby or exercise routine) simply because it is good for my body, for my mind, and my spirit- even when it has no direct affect on others?  It is enough to run because I love the act of it, and the vibration of joy I send out from my spirit in my strides seeps into the energy of the world? Is it okay if I don’t have a solid answer to give?

Im pretty sure I won’t die if I don’t run, but I think Killian meant the title as being more than that anyway. Because, in the end, running isn’t really just running.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

My Tools for Healing: Simple Tools to Help Overcome Anxiety and Depression

 My Tools for Healing:
Simple Tools to Help Overcome Anxiety and Depression

Over the past few years, I’ve been using a few simple self-help tools to help me deal with feelings of anxiety depression.  These tools may be free, but they have been priceless for me on my journey to health and happiness. I’ve listed them below with how I use them and why they are so invaluable.

*   -  Journal/ Blogging: Both of these tools help me to process my thoughts and how I feel about different things.  While I do both, the blogging isn’t essential.  I simply like to do it because I believe part of my purpose is to help others learn and overcome obstacles.  Also, please note that I did not say “diary”.  This tool isn’t about recording the day’s events.  The idea is to write about your thoughts and feelings, which may or may not pertain to that day.
Here is a specific example on how I’ve used journaling to help overcome anxiety:
The first time I used this tool I was actually in Africa volunteering with an organization called Cross Cultural Solutions.  One evening after dinner during our down time, feelings of anxiety began to creep up.  Instead of letting those feelings overwhelm me while in such a beautiful place in the middle of my adventure, I decided to pull out my journal and write down where I thought my anxiety was coming from.  For the most part, it mainly had to do with what I was going to do with my life when I got home.  Just looking at what I wrote, I realized how ridiculous this was.  I WAS THOUSANDS OF MILES FROM HOME!  Plus, I knew I still had a bed to sleep in and a little money still in my savings account.  Worrying about a job and life back home would do me absolutely no good overseas.
[This is a great exercise for anyone like me who suffers from what I call “Irrational Negative Thinking” Disorder.  It helps me call out that negative voice in my head, realize it makes little to no sense, and laugh at it.  This reduced the power it has over me.]
*   - Reading: I love books.  They’re great for a number of reasons, like taking me to another place when I need to get away or helping me learn from others and their experiences.  In conjunction, books can comfort me by helping me realize that I am not alone, something I think is huge when dealing with feelings of sadness or depression.  Additionally, I’m in the process of cleaning out my library’s self-help section (although they have a ton!).  Over the past two years, I’ve read more books on happiness, purpose, and meditation that I care to count, but I do know have helped me adopt new practices and ways of thinking.
*     - Outdoors/Running: To put it simply- I need a space outside to think and expand.  Also, it (specifically trail running) helps me find strength and beauty in my own body.

*      -Volunteering:  I believe everyone is on this earth for a purpose, and while certain aspects of that purpose may be different for everyone, I think it mainly revolves around spreading love.  With that, I feel we each have a duty to help others.  Volunteering has not only helped take me outside of myself, but increased by capacity to love others. 
     -Meditation:  This is the newest addition to my healing repertoire, and a practice I will never again overlook.  Yes, I am still working at it-it's still hard for me to quiet the constant chatter in my head and sit still for 10 minutes-but when I do it gives me a sense of peace and clarity that I can take with me for the rest of the day. 

2012 Book List

Books I’ve Read (Start: March 2012)

7 Habits of Highly Effective People- Stephen Covey
Covey teaches us the “core” habits of successful people, which based on values.  He takes the reader back to their inner-self, which results being a better communicator and leader.

Last Child in the Woods- Richard Louv
Louv writes about one of the main issues he believes are children are now facing “nature-deficit disorder”.  He links how a disappearing natural world has led, and is leading to, a world of depressed, anxious people and very few people who care about the environment.

The Happiness Project- Gretchen Rubin
This is an author’s journey on how to make her life happier, without really “changing” her life. Each month, she focuses on a new resolution and provides activities to go along with it.  Her goal is to “be happier” and “live happier” after one year.

Happier – Tal Ben-Shahar
Based on Harvard’s most popular class, Ben-Shahar shares knowledge on how to become happier, now and in the future.  Each chapter also provides self-reflection questions as well as happiness exercises.

To Be A Runner- Martin Dugard
Martin shares the lessons he learned from running, through his own personal stories as well as coaching a high school cross country team.  It delves into subjects like “why we run” and “finding meaning in life” with his natural wit and humor.

Life is What You Make It- Peter Buffet
Buffet has an interesting twist to other life fulfillment books, especially since his father is well-known multi-millionaire Warren Buffet.  He talks about the values his family helped instill in him, his decision to drop out of Harvard and seek a career as a musician, and what it means to give back.  The book touches on the possible price of privilege (especially for kids growing up in such a household), and mainly, how a person can find their true vocation.

“Doing our bliss entails a journey beyond ourselves.  Our talents and abilities we discovered should connect with what the world needs from us.”

Man’s Search for Meaning- Viktor Frankl
This is a truly amazing and eye-opening book that takes a psychological approach and dives into the mind of men who endured (of failed to thrive) in a German concentration camp.  Viktor explains how man can still be free even in the worst possible conditions, when everything on the outside it taken away.  Part two of the book explains Frankl’s approach in using logotherapy, or simply, man’s search for meaning.

Eat & Run – Scott Jurek
One of the best ultra-runners of our time take us down his trail to winning races, eating healthy, and attempting to figure out the “whys” in life.  The reader travels through Jurek’s climbs through Western States and Hardwark, melts at Badwater, and pound pavement in Athens at the Spartathalon.  The book the doubles as a recipe book, where Jurek shares some of his favorite vegan foods.  Last, despite Jurek’s saying “sometimes you just do things”, he touches on existentialism, questioning why he runs, what life is about, and how it interconnects with nature.

Running On Empty- Marshal Ulrich
One of the most renowned ultra runners and adventurers of our time, Marshal describes how running first became a way to get his high cholesterol down, and then a way to deal with his first wife’s death. He then went on to extreme endurance events, from the adventure racing, the Badwater Quad, summiting Mount Everest, and the running across America in his 50s. Most fascinating is Marshal’s questioning of his athletic feats, reflecting on their purpose and meaning.  Regardless, Marshal proved to the world how strong man is, challenging us to go defy our perceived limitations.

Running For Women- Kara Goucher
(To be honest, I did not read ALL of the book…I didn’t need to go over all the beginner material or how to run when you’re pregnant.)  World famous Olympic Distance Runner Kara Goucher shares her passion for running, giving tips, advice, and inspiration for runners of all levels.  She also gives personal accounts of her experiences, including her struggles with injury, finding balance, and her own self-doubt.  Her chapter on balancing running and life, how running is a passion but not who she is, is extremely insightful and is they to being happy and running for the rest of your life.

Be the Pack Leader: Use Cesar’s Way to Transform Your Dog…and Your Life – Cesar Milian& Melissa Jo Peltier
(Admittedly, I did not read this book…I listened to it on CD)
This is not a dog training book, though it does offer some tips and suggestions.  What it is, however, is a great way to better yourself to better your dog’s life.  This book could easily follow under that category of self-transformation as it teaches you how to harness your emotions in to calm-assertive energy. The tips will give you better control over the tools you already have, from your leash to your own actions.  It will not only help you get your dog to listen to you better, but help you to become a better pack leader to everyone around you and strengthen the relationship between you and your dog.

The Extra Mile- Pam Reed
Pam Reed has been one of the leading women paving the way in endurance sports and ultra running for the few decades.  Her feats are nothing short of astonishing…like winning Badwater Ultramarathon TWICE and running 300 miles STRAIGHT.  In this books she takes us through her childhood, dealing with anorexia, divorce, and a failing business to meeting her new husband and completing her first IRONMAN, raising a family, race directing the Tuscon Marathon, and competing in ultra events.  She speaks very frankly about the events in her life and it would be interesting to see how another reader views some of her decisions. ( I have no negative opinion of her and find her achievements remarkable, but I do question some of her motives and how she has devoted all of her time.)

Women Runners: Stories of Transformation-Edited by Irene Reti and Bettianne Shoney Sien
(Normally, I’m not a huge fan of short stories, but I’m glad I gave this one a try)
The pages of this book are filled with inspirational stories of women who have used running as way to transform themselves and their lives.  Each story is heartfelt, sometimes making the reader want to tear up, and other times shout with joy.  After reading one story (or poem), it is most likely that the reader will need a moment to pause and reflect, seeing the beautiful journey where running has taken her as well.

Think: Straight Talk for Women to Stay Smart in a Dumbed-Down World – Lisa Bloom
This is a book all women should read, then pass on to all the women friends.  Actually, this would be a good book for men too, although they don’t deal with all the issues women are facing.  Bloom enlightens the reader of some the difficulties women are facing in the U.S. in today’s “reality” t.v. era, problems countires around the world are facing, and discusses just where the U.S. falls in gender equality (not quite as good as you might think).  Just as important is that she calls us (women) out things we have let our mind think was “OK”, such as watching hours of BRAVO and E! and picking up the junk tabloids in the grocery line to discover what’s new in celebrity relationships…and then not being able to re-call the different bodies of the government (“we were supposed to remember what we learned in high school!?”).  Lucky for us, Bloom offers several tips on how women can stay smart and make a difference despite the superficial attacks on us in the media.

 The Exhaustion Cure – Laura Stack (Book CD)
This book is filled with tips on how to be more efficient and productive throughout the day, giving you more time and energy.  Laura talks about “energy” bandits that strip away our energy, from unhealthy eating and vitamin deficiencies to unconstructive work habits and clutter.  Any reader (or listener) is bound to get a few tips that they can take with them in their busy lives.

STEVE JOBS – Walter Isaacson
(Most people say that reading a book outside of your normal reading categories help you learn and grow.  While biographies are part of my norm, this is still one of those books for me, as computers and technology have never been of a high interest level for me.  And, I admit, though this was a long, slow read, I enjoyed the book)
Isaacson gives us a story of one of the most prominent geniuses of our time, in a very unbiased way.  The reader learns briefly of Job’s childhood, the effect being given up for adoption had on him, and then growing up in a middle class family in California where he soon became smarter than his parents.  We touch on his somewhat crazy teenager and young adult years, taking LSD and traveling to India to study with Zen teachers, the working with Wozniak to develop the first personal computer and Apple.  I could go on and on about his accomplishments in technology, but what is more interesting is how he accomplished them and his reasoning behind each product, idea, or strategy.  Even more so, a psychological analysis of Steve Jobs is hinted at, and could even be studied.  Isaacson includes input from employees, competitors, friends, and family to give the reader a full circle of accounts and impressions the Job’s had on others.  The books probably won’t make the reader like or hate jobs, but fascinated by the man who claims simply “I am who I am”.

A Life Without Limits – Chrissie Wellington
Both beautiful and inspiring, Chrissie Wellington takes us with her on her journeys, featuring both the ups and downs, which lead amazing adventures.  She is brutally honest in her writing,
discussing her obsessive compulsiveness, eating disorders, and even bathroom habits during a race.  Despite being a 4 time IronMan World Champion, Chrissie makes the reader feel like they could be best friends.  The largest thing to take away from the book is Chrissie passion and enthusiasm for life and helping others.  While she stepped away from her career at the UK Department for the Environment, Food, and Rural Affairs to pursue triathlons, it is assured she made the right decision as she now has a much larger platform to empower other to be their best, and, with her infectious smile, to always stay positive.

The 4-Hour Work Week: Escape 9-5, Live Anywhere, and Join the New Rich- Timothy Ferris
(Book CD)
(Despite not being a business person, nor someone looking to start my own business, I still found many of the tips and suggestion in this book useful).
Timothy Ferris has quite an amazing track record for anyone, but especially for someone (at the time of this book) under 30.  He is a world traveler, a national Chinese kickboxing champion, and owns his own business…while only working roughly four hours a week.  His time spent not working includes pursuing hobbies, learning the culture of foreign countries, and most importantly, spending time with loved ones.  In this book, he offer tips on how anyone else can do the same and explains what it means to be part of the “new rich”.  

 Three Cups of Tea: One Man’s Mission to Fight Terrorism and Build Nations…One School at a Time – Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin (Book CD)
Greg Mortenson seemingly failed.  He did not reach the top of K2, and almost died on his way down after getting lost and spending the night in the freezing open air alone.  However, in a small, poverty-stricken village in Pakistan he was nursed back to health by the people there.  After seeing the children there study, on the own, in a field of dirt, he left with the promise that he would build them a school.  Despite hundreds of set-backs, Mortenson turned his failure into success.  He has built schools all over Pakistan and Afghanistan even after 9/11, tackling the war at its’ root: ignorance.  Education not only turns boys away from a life of violence, but empowers women to take a stand in their villages as well, which leads to better health and education for the whole community.  If you really want to fight the way, read this book.

 Half the Sky: Turning Oppression into Opportunity for Women Worldwide – Nicholas D. Kristof & Sheryl WuDunn
It was Mao Tse-Tung of China who said “Women hold up half the sky”, knowing that in order for a revolution to take place in his country, both genders would have take equal part.  The problem at the time, and the problem that many 3rd world countries still face, is that women have little to no rights.  Actually, they are treated as less than human.  They are beaten, sold into sex-trade, have their genitals mutilated, married as children, and left uneducated.  Largely as a result of this, their countries are left in poverty and have high rates of violence.  In this books, the authors give the reader the hard facts, bring tears, and tell us the very real stories of women in these oppressed countries.  And yet, this book is powerful and full of hope.  The struggles that these women go through, fighting for themselves and their sisters and daughters, give hope and inspire others to be stronger, to be better.  The book also offers insight and realistic ways we can make a difference and support these amazing women, the only way we can keep our world from falling apart.

 Becoming Odyssa: Epic Adventures on the Appalachian Trail – Jennifer Pharr Davis
This is part one of the amazing journeys Jennifer Phar Davis has had on the Appalachian Trail and all over the world.  It is in this begging where we see her find herself, her strength, her beauty.  While the reader may find herself yearning to go hike the trail, she can still find satisfaction by vicariously living and learning through Jennifer and her trails on the trail. 

A Chance to Make History: What Works and What Doesn’t in Providing an Excellent Education for All – Wendy Kopp (Book CD; below I have copied the book description---admittedly, I had a hard time concentrating on each part, but did find it interesting)
Since 1990, Teach For America has been building a movement to end educational inequity in America. Now its founder, Wendy Kopp, shares the lessons learned from the experiences of more than 25,000 teachers and alumni who have taught and led schools in low-income communities during those years. A Chance to Make History cuts through the noise of today’s debates to describe precisely what it will take to provide transformational education—education that changes the academic and life trajectories predicted by children’s socioeconomic backgrounds.

Sharing her experiences in some of the country’s most underserved communities, Kopp introduces leaders at the classroom, school, and system levels who, driven by passionate belief in their students’ potential, have set out to accomplish what most think impossible. Their inspiring stories show how we can provide children facing all the challenges of poverty with an excellent education, and that doing so involves the same ingredients that account for success in any endeavor: visionary leadership that sets ambitious goals and puts forth the energy and discipline to reach them.

 The Nature Principle: Human Restoration and the End of Nature-Deficit Disorder –Richard Louv
A wonderful follow up to “Last Child in the Woods” Louv delves deeper in issues facing a nature deprived society.  Though factual, the book is lively with personal accounts, observations and stories from researches, and, if I may say it bluntly, some really awesome things that some individuals and communities have been up to help revitalize nature.  In view of my personal interest, I found the information given on technology and nature (Louv called the balance a “hybrid mind”) and psychological effects of ecotherapy particularly interesting.

Twenty-Something: Why do Young Adults Seem Stuck?- Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig
This is a book I would recommend to many of my college friends, friends in a career/life crisis, and those in higher education. Based on input from young adults and Baby Boomers (we're not that different!) and research, the authors (mother and daughter team) look at the struggle to "close doors"/leave opportunities, make decisions, using your degree, watching friends travel overseas, deciding when to start a family, and find meaning in your life's work. This book of course did not give me any answers, but just taking a look at the mental approach and, most of all, knowing I’m not alone, was quite helpful!

 I read several books prior to March, but I can’t remember all the names, and some of those books were left in Tanzania.  However, I do remember enjoying books by Jillian Michaels, Ellen DeGeneres, and Sylvia Brown.

It amazes me how so many of the books I read this year popped up just when I needed them!  These books have taken me on quite the mental adventure, often giving me tips on how to overcome my own struggles, but overall simply increasing my personal sense of self.  I’ve really come full circle with each of these carry-on journeys during 2012 J

Thursday, November 7, 2013

My Dream Room


          As some of you know Steve and I recently moved into a new house in Hudson.  One day before we made the move, I strategically entered into a conversation as Steve’s son was complaining that our bedroom was bigger than his.  In reply I said “You know it kind of stinks when you’re an adult.  You have to share a room.  At least you get to have your own.” 

[Okay, so that may have not been the nicest thing to stay with Steve next to me, but hey, that’s what happens when you buy a house without your live-in girlfriend ever even seeing it (whoops? Did I type that for everyone to see? Yes I did Steve.)  Anyway, I’ll move on and let the past be forgotten.]

As it turns out, there ended up being an extra room in the house, albeit about 1/3 the size of Steve’s office.  However, I need a small place to feel comfortable in, and it had a nice view of our wooded back yard.  I took it.

For some of you, you may be thinking that I shouldn’t need my own, separate room.  However, I know have of you completely understand.  Personally, I need time alone to recharge my batteries.  I need a safe place where I can unwind, gather my thoughts, and let positive vibes flow back in me.  Therefore, this room is NOT an office.  It is my Dream Room and a room for inspiration.  It is a place to dream, meditate, and grow.

I’ll let my pictures say the rest:

"This Dream Room is for positive energy and happy thoughts only.  Before entering, please take a deep breath and leave all negativity at the door"

I did the birds myself!  (I got the idea from a coffee shop in Telluride, CO) The mountain sticker was a Christmas present from Sandi.

The painting is from Sandi of course...I wanted to room to be sunset colors and the painting fit in perfectly!

The sticky notes on the door are mantras and self reminders. Ex."Act with Love"

The two tack boards are vision/dream boards.  One is more for things I want, the other
has more to do with how I want to feel (thought it has a list of chakras right now).